Tak­ing bik­ers to task

Crime sup­pres­sion unit tar­get­ing Relic Riders, other ‘out­law’ sup­port­ers

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

Photos of mo­tor­cy­cles parked in front of a Whit­bourne gas sta­tion were taken on a re­cent Sun­day fol­low­ing a scenic ride in­volv­ing dozens of bik­ers.

It was the end of the an­nual Bac­calieu Trail ride or­ga­nized by Car­bon­ear based mo­tor­cy­cle club the Relic Riders. Par­tic­i­pants were mem­bers of var­i­ous mo­tor­cy­cle and rid­ing clubs from all over the province.

Lined up on the walk­way be­hind the bikes in the photos were seven po­lice of­fi­cers in full uni­form, in­clud­ing bul­let­proof vests. These po­lice of­fi­cers were mem­bers of the Royal New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary (RNC) and Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice (RCMP) joint task force known as the crime sup­pres­sion team.

Lo­cals from the Car­bon­ear area have taken to so­cial media to voice their dis­plea­sure with the ex­ces­sive num­ber of law en­force­ment per­son­nel that were in the re­gion for the July 25-26 week­end. Some felt the club was be­ing tar­geted be­cause they were bik­ers.

RNC Const. Steve Curnew told The Com­pass last Fri­day the event was tar­geted be­cause of known af­fil­i­a­tion and sup­port of out­law mo­tor­cy­cle gangs (OMGs) from the Relic Riders. They wear a patch that says “Bac­chus Sup­porter.” The Bac­chus club is known as a one-per­center or­gan- iza­tion, tra­di­tion­ally af­fil­i­ated with not obey­ing laws.

Be­ing tick­eted

The Relic Riders’ 13th an­nual Show N’ Shine event took place the day be­fore the Bac­calieu Trail ride. The event at Paddy’s Gar­den in Car­bon­ear takes do­na­tions from those in at­ten­dance, with pro­ceeds go­ing to the Ju­ve­nile Di­a­betes Re­search Foun­da­tion (JDRF).

This year, there was a heavy po­lice pres­ence along Val­ley Road, where Paddy’s Gar­den is lo­cated, dur­ing the event. The crime sup­pres­sion team was mon­i­tor­ing the event. The fol­low­ing day, the group be­gan its ride at 1 p.m. and the sup­pres­sion team was there.

It was dur­ing this time that tick­ets were is­sued, but con­cerns were raised that the rea­sons be­hind the tick­ets were not all le­git­i­mate. One biker, who wished not to be iden­ti­fied, said he was tick­eted for im­proper use of a mo­tor­cy­cle be­cause he lifted one hand off the han­dle­bars. Another for­got his eye pro­tec­tion and was pulled over only a few me­tres from his house.

“I don’t think peo­ple have a prob­lem with the RCMP or RNC do­ing their job,” Relic Riders pres­i­dent Bruno Re­ichel ex­plained, not­ing some feel it’s more like ha­rass­ment than en­force­ment.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Boyd Mer­rill con­firmed 29 tick­ets were is­sued dur­ing the Relic Riders events through­out Trin­ity Conception, with 25 of them listed as pro­vin­cial statute charges (un­spec­i­fied), three im­paired driv­ing charges and one 24-hour sus­pen­sion.

Wrong per­cep­tion

Lead­ing up to the event, RCMP and RNC is­sued a state­ment that they were pre­par­ing for an in­flux of OMG mem­bers en­ter­ing the province for two out­law mo­tor­cy­cle runs, one in cen­tral and one on the Avalon.

The prepa­ra­tions sparked con­cern that illegal ac­tiv­ity or or­ga­nized crime was go­ing to be an is­sue at the events, but specifics were not men­tioned as to where the rides would take place in Cen­tral New­found­land and the Avalon. It is still un­known if the Relic Riders event was one of those men­tioned in the re­lease.

Re­ichel wants to tell the public what his or­ga­ni­za­tion does and to knock down the mis­con­cep­tion that all bik­ers are crim­i­nals.

“There are a lot of bik­ers in the world and, of course, there are bad bik­ers,” Re­ichel ex­plained. “There’s a lot of bad peo­ple in all or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing (some) po­lice of­fi­cers.”

He showed the Com­pass re­porter around the group’s club­house, in­clud­ing the board­room where they hold meet­ings. On the walls around the ta­ble are awards and plaques pre­sented to the group from var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions and mo­tor­cy­cle clubs.

One item in par­tic­u­lar was a big ac­com­plish­ment for the club. In 2012, the Relic Riders re­ceived a JDRF award for vol­un­teer of the year.

On the board room ta­ble was a two page list of lo­cal busi­nesses that have sup­ported the club for their events. The com­mu­nity has shown they are be­hind the group by their gen­eros­ity, Re­ichel said.

Con­cerns

Out of province bik­ers be­gan ar­riv­ing last week into Port aux Basques. Dozens were slapped with tick­ets, although what they were for was not re­vealed.

Curnew said the in­ten­tion of bring­ing the po­lice out in full force is just to de­ter illegal ac­tiv­ity and po­ten­tially stop a group from set­ting up shop here.

Mer­rill echoed those con­cerns in a state­ment last week.

“The mo­tor­cy­cle gangs of­ten try to mask or dis­guise their real in­ten­tion, which is crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,” he said. “When they have events within the province, they’re re­ally net­work­ing while they’re here to ex­pand their ac­tiv­i­ties crim­i­nally within New­found­land and Labrador, and the mes­sage is loud and clear: they’re not welcome.”

But Re­ichel sees some flaws in the way the po­lice han­dled re­leas­ing the in­for­ma­tion. The big­gest con­cern he had was the ex­pla­na­tion on what the bik­ers were do­ing in the province.

“It’s bor­der­line slan­der,” he ex­plained, not­ing po­lice raised con­cerns about drug traf­fick­ing.

But Curnew dis­agreed, say­ing the only in­ten­tion is to in­form the bik­ers there is a heavy po­lice pres­ence around these events. Any­one with any af­fil­i­a­tion with or sup­port for an out­law group will be mon­i­tored, he con­tin­ued. This would in­clude fly­ing or wear­ing the colours of their groups.

“Not that we have con­cerns for the public. We be­lieve they are here to net­work and ex­pand,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to Re­ichel, the af­fil­i­a­tion the Relic Riders have with out­law clubs is the same as they have with all other groups — mu­tual re­spect. They in­ter­act with each other, at­tend each other’s events and con­trib­ute to their fundrais­ers. And Re­ichel notes there is never dis­cus­sion amongst them con­cern­ing any type of illegal ac­tiv­ity.

But as of now, the joint task force will con­tinue its crack down on all mo­tor­cy­cle clubs and any­one they deem af­fil­i­ated with out­law gangs.

The Relic Riders will con­tinue to sup­port their com­rades from other clubs and help out around the com­mu­nity any time they get the op­por­tu­nity. They also say they will steer clear of illegal ac­tiv­ity.

“No one wants to see the biker scene turn into chaos and or­ga­nized crime,” Re­ichel said.

PHOTO BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COM­PASS

The Relic Riders logo on the wall of the board­room at the Car­bon­ear club house.

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